Straussism is the philosophy of the obscure University Of Chicago philosophy
instructor Leo Strauss.
The students of Leo Strauss left the University in search of political power;
these took root in the Republican party, formed neo-conservatism and became
known as Neocons
Straussism calls for tyranny -- rule from those above.
The purpose of this document is to present the principles of Straussism as
a rosetta stone http://tinyurl.com/qo7yc
to give one the knowledge to decipher and translate the rhetoric and behavior
of the George Bush neocon administration into some degree of coherent meaning.
1) A Straussian: a disciple of the philosopher Leo Strauss.
2) Leo Struass (1899-1973) was a student of philosophy in Germany and
watched the Weimar Republic dissolve into chaos and then into tyranny. As a
Jew, he was forced to flee Germany and he eventually ended up at the University
of Chicago, where he developed a cult following from some the brightest students.
For Strauss, the demise of the Weimar Republic represented a repudiation of
liberal democracy. Liberalism, to Strauss, equals relativism, which necessarily
leads to nihilism. Strauss longed to return to a previous, pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois
era of blood and guts, of imperial domination, of authoritarian rule, of pure
These views resonated with Straussian disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard
Perle, William Kristol and Harry Jaffa. They took these ideas out of the classroom
and translated them into actual political doctrine: the neoconservative manifesto
of the Project for a New American Century. Straussian principles would be implemented
on a global scale, and 9/11 provided the perfect pretext. Paul Wolfowitz, who
attended Strauss's lectures on Plato, became the architect of the Iraq War,
using hyped intelligence concerning WMD's as the "noble lie".
As a young man in Germany, Leo Strauss became infatuated with a beautiful and
brilliant Jewish scholar, Hannah Arendt, whose impact on American political
thought will probably be seen by future historians as greater than any other
of the Weimar émigrés. Hannah Arendt spurned Strauss's advances
and did not conceal her contempt for his ideas. Arendt died in 1975, but the
importance of her work is just beginning to be appreciated. Her brilliant analysis,
The Origins of Totalitarianism, remains the standard today, and her categories
can help us understand the erosion of democracy since 9/11. Her concept of the
"banality of evil" which she developed in Eichmann in Jerusalem is
useful in understanding how ordinary individuals can plan and carry out acts
Strauss and Arendt represent the two poles of the ideological struggle that
began in the Weimar Republic and which continues even today in America. http://tinyurl.com/ocj7s
3) So, what is Neo-conservatism (what is its relationship to Straussism
and how is it related to tyranny), and how does it propose to change the world
in accordance with Straussian political philosophy? 'Neo' comes from the Greek
neos, which means new. And, what's neo about neo-conservatism? Well, for one
thing, the old conservatism relied on tradition and history; it was cautious,
slow and moderate; it went with the flow. But under the influence of Leo Strauss,
the new conservatism is intoxicated with nature. The new conservatism is not
slow or cautious, but active, aggressive, and reactionary in the literal sense
of the term. Inspired by Strauss's hatred for liberal modernity, its goal is
to turn back the clock on the liberal revolution and its achievements. http://tinyurl.com/of2p4
Twenty Two Characteristics Of Straussism
1) The Few Must Rule The Many
John Locke and the American founding fathers held “the natural law tradition”
which holds that man possesses natural rights to life, liberty, and property
and that the state is always and everywhere the greatest threat to these God-given
rights. To the founders, this meant that government should be "bound by
the chains" of the Constitution, to paraphrase Jefferson. If men were angels,
there would be no need for government, Madison wrote in defense of the Constitution.
But men are not angels, Madison continued, which is why government power must
always be limited.
Leo Strauss rejected this view of natural rights in favor of Plato’s
“philosopher-king” model of government; the “philosopher kings”
exercise the “rule of the wise”
Straussians assign dignity to the few.
The superiority of the “ruling philosophers” is an intellectual
superiority and not a moral one.
2) Virtue Is Defined By The Elite: It Is That Which Is “For The
The elite few are to have unlimited state power who use it to pursue “virtue”
with virtue being, their own vision of "the public good."
Moral virtue had no application to the really intelligent man, the philosopher.
Moral virtue only existed in popular opinion, where it served the purpose of
controlling the unintelligent majority.
3) The Strong Must Rule The Weak
Strauss taught: “The strong must rule the weak”; this was presented
quite well in Jim Lobe's article 'The Strong Must Rule The Weak' http://tinyurl.com/qtlnn
4) Only One Natural Right: The Right To Rule Over The Vulgar Many
Those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that
there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over
The people will not be happy to learn that there is only one natural right—the
right of the superior to rule over the inferior, the master over the slave,
the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many.
For the Straussian, the people of the United States are the “vulgar many,”
chumps, dupes, and ciphers to be manipulated, poked, and prodded in the direction
of the “Long War,” a new Hundred Years’ War, as spelled out
by Rumsfeld’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review. “A policy of perpetual
war against a threatening enemy is the best way to ward off political decay.
And if the enemy cannot be found, then it must be invented.”
Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition,
is not one of freedom, but of subordination.
Strauss divided the history of political thought into two camps: the ancients
(like Plato) are wise and wily, whereas the moderns (like Locke and other liberals)
are vulgar and foolish.
5) Justice Is Merely The Interest Of The Stronger
Strauss shares the insights of the wise Plato that justice is merely the interest
of the stronger; that those in power make the rules in their own interests and
call it justice.
6) “The Rule Of The Wise” is unquestionable, absolute, authoritarian,
undemocratic and covert
The rule of the wise is not to be questioned: one is not to raise questions
about classic values such as justice or constitutional principles; hence the
rule of the wise must be unquestioned.
The rule of the wise is to be absolute, authoritarian and undemocratic: The
rule of the wise cannot involve any consideration of the unwise: Leo Strauss
said: “It would be equally absurd to hamper the free flow of wisdom by
consideration of the unwise wishes of the unwise; hence the wise rulers ought
not to be responsible to the unwise subjects;" the rule of the wise must
be absolute and authoritarian; majority-democracy would result in the subjection
of what is by nature higher to that which is lower. Strauss’ reading of
Plato comes down to this: a majority-democracy is an act against nature and
must be prevented at all costs. Under the Straussian autocratic system, dissent
is not only dangerous, it is seditious.
This rule of the wise must be covert; and this principle is facilitated by
the overwhelming stupidity of the gentlemen. The more gullible and unperceptive
they are, the easier it is for the wise to control and manipulate them.
7) The Three Classes: The Wise-Few, The Vulgar-Many And The Gentlemen
The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable
of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognize neither
God nor moral imperatives. They are devoted above all else to their own pursuit
of the “higher” pleasures, which amount to consorting with their
“puppies” or young initiates.
The vulgar many, are lovers of wealth and pleasure. They are selfish, slothful,
and indolent. They can be inspired to rise above their brutish existence only
by fear of impending death or catastrophe.
The gentlemen, are lovers of honor and glory. They are the most ingratiating
towards the conventions of their society, that is, the illusions of the cave.
They are true believers in God, honor, and moral imperatives. They are ready
and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment’s
8) The State Is Omnipotent: It Manifests Militaristic Nationalism.
Strauss believed that human aggression could only be restrained by a powerful,
nationalistic state. He believed that such an omnipotent state can only be maintained
if there is an external threat, "even if one has to be manufactured."
This is why Straussians believe in perpetual war and is another reason why they
have formed a cult around "the church of Lincoln," whom they hold
up as "the greatest statesman in history." Lincoln manufactured many
"threats," including the truly bizarre notion that representative
government would perish from the earth if the Southern states were permitted
to secede peacefully. In reality, peaceful secession would have been a victory
for self-government, keeping in mind that neither Lincoln nor Congress ever
said that they were launching an invasion for any reason having to do with liberating
Strauss taught that war – any war – will restore our “moral
seriousness”, "clear away the fog of unthinking relativism,"
enable us to see evil, restore virtue, heroism, valor, and a sense of sacrifice,
allow us to die for our comrades, country and faith, avoid the "hazards
of civilization," make us more thoughtful, force us to "consider our
loyalties," make men "decisive", and "place greatness within
the reach of ordinary men."
“Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed,"
he once wrote. "Such governance can only be established, however, when
men are united – and they can only be united against other people."
The only way a political order can be stable and not deteriorate in hedonistic
pleasure is if it is united by an external threat.
Wealth, freedom, and prosperity make people soft, pampered, and depraved. War
is an antidote to moral decadence and depravity. Thus war is held to be redemptive
9) Perpetual War Is Necessary
Perpetual War not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in; thus an "aggressive,
belligerent foreign policy," of the kind that has been advocated by neocon
groups like PNAC and AEI scholars, not to mention Wolfowitz and other administration
hawks who have called for a world order dominated by U.S. military power. Strauss'
neoconservative students see foreign policy as a means to fulfill a "national
destiny", as Irving Kristol defined it already in 1983, that goes far beyond
the narrow confines of a "myopic national security."
10) Patriotic Fervor Is To Be Rallied
The nation against its external enemies as well as its internal decadence, sloth,
pleasure, and consumption, encourages a strong patriotic fervor among the honor-loving
gentlemen who wield the reins of power. That strong nationalistic spirit consists
in the belief that their nation and its values are the best in the world, and
that all other cultures and their values are inferior in comparison.
11) Political Expediency And Murder Become Virtue
Athens, the democracy, weakened by plague, suffered a terrible defeat at the
hands of oligarchic Sparta and its allies. Strauss, following Plato, did not
grieve for the loss of Athens; the real city had been no match for the ideal
city. In his view, the active life of the citizen of Periclean Athens suffered
by comparison with the contemplative life of the philosopher.
The Straussians in the Department of Defense and in the think tanks took this
to mean that they could kill on principle. And they did and they do. The first
Bush sent his Spartan general to Iraq, and the second sent the same Spartan
to the Security Council. The Straussians could not call their work politics,
so they called it virtue.
12) Possess And As Necessary Present The “Hidden Meaning” Reject
Countervailing Historical Narratives
Straussians routinely claim to possess unique understanding of the "hidden
meaning" of history and historical documents, which is often directly at
odds with the plain historical facts.
13) Maintain A Culture Of Lying And Carry On A Perpetual Confusion Campaign
Maintain a culture of lying through a compliant media and professional spokes-liars,
and carry on a perpetual campaign to confuse the public and keep it ignorant
of the elites political designs. The result of this is that Elite operate from
a shroud of secrecy; thus their reasonings and logic is nontransparent.
Strauss continually endeavored to convince his acolytes that they are the natural
And it does not take much intelligence for them to surmise that they are in
a situation of great danger, especially in a world devoted to the modern ideas
of equal rights and freedoms. Now more than ever, the wise few must proceed
cautiously and with circumspection. So, they come to the conclusion that they
have a moral justification to lie in order to avoid persecution.
Yes Strauss goes so far as to say that dissembling and deception – in
effect, a culture of lying – is the peculiar justice of the wise.
14) The Many Are Told What They Need To Know And No More.
Deception is carried on continually.
Lies are to be both aggressive and perpetual.
While the elite few are capable of absorbing the absence of any moral truth,
the many could not cope; if exposed to anything other than the maintained reality,
they would quickly fall into nihilism or anarchy.
15) Lies Are Held To Be Nobel: Develop, Maintain And Present Noble Lies
Strauss believed in the concept of “noble lies”: the conviction
that lies, far from being simply a regrettable necessity of political life,
are instead virtuous and noble instruments of wise policy to keep the many from
the dangers of liberalism and democracy.
Plato himself advised his nobles, men with golden souls, to tell noble lies,
that is, political fables, much like the specter of Saddam Hussein with a nuclear
bomb: to rally the people, to keep the other levels of human society (silver,
iron, brass) in their proper places, loyal to the state and willing to do its
Strauss defined the modern method of noble lies in the use of esoteric messages
within an exoteric text, telling the truth to the wise while at the same time
conveying something quite different to the many; thus he advocated an Orwellian
double speak http://tinyurl.com/8jxjo
method of communication
16) Dissemble Democracy
Maintain true democracy that is a leadership-democracy for the Few while at
the same time feign majority-democracy to the Many.
Relate the principle of true democracy to the elite: the strong must rule the
weak. While at the same time dissemble http://tinyurl.com/rpyod
mythical democracy to the populace: the rule of the majority.
Strauss had no objections to democracy as long as a wise elite, inspired by
the profound truths of the ancients
Wrap speeches with the American flag giving the appearance of appearance of
legitimacy in dissimulation and deceit.
17) Religion Is For The Many
Strauss believed in, and proposed, a state religion as a way of reviving absolutes,
countering free thought, and enforcing a cohesive unity. Strauss argued against
a society containing a multiplicity of coexisting religions and goals, which
would break the society apart.
Religion was primarily a propaganda tool to be used to get the many to acquiesce
in state intervention on behalf of aggressive nationalism.
Authority and discipline are key values for Straussians; the many need religion
to keep them in line. Marx called religion the opium of the people, Strauss
thought the people needed their opium.
Thus, Religion is absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the
many who otherwise would be out of control.
Religion was for the many alone; the philosopher kings need not be bound by
it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by
religion were "a pious fraud." Neoconservatives are pro-religion even
though they themselves may not be believers.
“Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing,'' because
it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits
that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability
to cope with external threats or not be available for aggressive nationalism
18) Secrecy Is Essential
The wise must conceal their views for two reasons – to spare the people’s
feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals. People will not be
happy to learn that there is only one natural right – the right of the
superior to rule over the inferior, and both lies and secrecy are thus necessary
to protect the superior few from the persecution of the vulgar many.
19) Nature Abhors A Contract
Long before the events of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration, goaded
on by Wolfowitz, Kristol, The American Enterprise Institute, The Project for
the New American Century, and others on the right, had made a decision to oust
Saddam Hussein. Bush seems to have had a personal vendetta, but the others had
more philosophical reasons.
There was nothing Machiavellian about the attack. It was based on principles
the planners derived from natural law. One suspects that President Bush, with
his simplistic messianic mind-set, was attracted to this line of reasoning:
The natural law in the yew hearts of human beings, the innate ability to know
right from wrong, took precedence over mere convention.
And so the Bush regime violated the contract that was agreed to when the United
States joined the United Nations; it flouted the U.S. Constitution, which is
also a contract, by attacking without the required declaration of war by the
Congress; and it disregarded the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of prisoners
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in other secret detention camps around the world.
The administration's wise men held up Strauss's version of natural law as the
model, dismissing contracts as mere laws of men.
Natural law, interpreted by Bush's "wise counsels," gave the President
permission to launch a preemptive war through an appeal to the higher power.
Natural-law theory assumes that men seek the good and that by asking the perennial
questions--what is virtue? What is justice?--they will come to wisdom.
Straussians, like Kristol, hold that the Founding Fathers espoused natural-law
theory, saying that natural law was both divine and self-evident. But the Founders
were concerned with inalienable natural rights. After much debate in their convention,
they wrote a contract.
20) Intimidate All Opponents
"Professors who had less respect for Leo Strauss . . . were read quotations
from [Strauss’s] Natural Right and History." The other faculty and
students at Chicago viewed the Straussians as "intellectual brown shirts,
engaged in a campaign of deliberate intimidation." This of course is a
practice that these same people practice today, rarely engaging in honest intellectual
debate but rather attempting to intimidate or censor those who disagree with
them. Alan Keyes, for example, typically dismisses his critics as being "incapable
of recognizing moral purpose," as though he alone possesses such abilities.
21) Extinguish The Fires of Rabble
Jim Lobe in ‘Strong Must Rule The Weak’ writes: As for what a Straussian
world order might look like, (Shadia) Drury said the philosopher often talked
about Jonathan Swift's story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians. ''When Lilliput
was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing,
he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged
and appalled by such a show of disrespect.''
The fires of rabble are the modern licentious doctrines and philosophies; these
include such things as individualism, liberty, legalism and constitutionalism.
The fires of rabble have resulted in great social decay: divorce, delinquency,
crime, and abounding creature comforts; and the fires of rabble have created
seditious constructs of contracts, statutes and constitutions.
The Vulgar, that is America, is literally on fire; in order for it to be saved,
the fires of rabble must be extinguished through the institution of martial
22) Ennoble The Many
If the Few were to give the Many, such things as freedom, happiness, and prosperity,
in Strauss's estimation, this would turn them into animals.
The goal of the wise is to ennoble the vulgar. But what could possibly ennoble
the vulgar? Only weeping http://tinyurl.com/mtm8l
and sacrificing http://tinyurl.com/mrs2n
ennobles the many.
1) Neo-conservatism is the ultimate stealth weapon of mass destruction whose
purpose is to destroy liberty and affluence.
2) It is ironic that American neoconservatives have decided to conquer
the world in the name of liberty and democracy, when they have so little regard
3) It is helpful to think in terms of opposites
Mother Teresa and Straussians are opposites. Mother Teresa was humble, willing
to yield, caring and truthful; whereas, Straussians are exhalative, ruthless,
uncaring and deceitful. If Leo Strauss were alive today he might consider the
above statement "seditious", one worthy of Ennoblement.
4) Strauss as a nihilist
Strauss is a nihilist in the sense that he believes that there is no rational
foundation for morality.
He is an atheist, and he believes that in the absence of God, morality has
no grounding. It’s all about benefiting others and oneself; there is no
objective reason for doing so, only rewards and punishments in this life.
But Strauss is not a nihilist if we mean by the term a denial that there is
any truth, a belief that everything is interpretation.
He does not deny that there is an independent reality. On the contrary, he
thinks that independent reality consists in nature and its “order of rank”
– the high and the low, the superior and the inferior. Like Nietzsche,
he believes that the history of western civilization has led to the triumph
of the inferior, the rabble – something they both lamented profoundly.
References for this material came
from these sources and others:
Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception
of Leo Strauss: Leo Strauss
Ignoble liars: Leo Strauss,
George Bush, and the philosophy of mass deception
Straussians: Mass Murder at the Mall
and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq
Must Rule The Weak
A Straussian Waltz
and the neoconservatives